Published May 13, 2014At 80, John Mayall remains known as the Godfather of British Blues, thanks to his mentorship of such key figures of the '60s British blues-rock scene as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Mick Taylor, Peter Green and John McVie (all members of his Bluesbreakers band). Mayall's own albums didn't always get the recognition they deserved, especially his adventurous blues meets jazz meets rock explorations in the '70s (I have fond memories of catching some of his gigs in that era).
The aptly named A Special Life is the veteran's first studio album in five years. The album begins promisingly with a cheerful romp through Clifton Chenier's "Why Did You Go Last Night," featuring vocals and accordion from the zydeco great's son, C.J. Chenier. Elsewhere, Mayall mixes originals and covers of songs by the likes of Albert King ("Flooding In California," an album highlight) and Eddie Taylor ("Big Town Playboy"). "Heartache" is the strongest Mayall composition, boosted by strong guitar from Rocky Athas and Mayall's piano work. His voice remains in good and typically mellow shape, and his band is a tight unit.
Unfortunately, a little too much of the material is run of the mill (though always competent) 12-bar blues, but this is a record that his core audience is sure to enjoy though. (Forty Below Records)